Glory days, big-name movements and one two-horse race headlined another memorable round of A-League action this past weekend.
The famous Glory boys
After 25 A-League rounds, the pride of West Australia is now the pride of the land in full.
A sole Ivan Franjic strike saw Perth Glory overcome the Newcastle Jets 1-0 at HBF Park, where over 11,000 fans witnessed their club lift the Premiers’ Plate for the very first time.
Coach Tony Popovic made it his mission to bring the glory days back to the club and, with two games to spare; he’s done just that – in record-breaking fashion.
“They’re the best team in the league, that’s a fact. The club goes into Asia, that’s also a fact,” Popovic said.
“Now we need to get ourselves right for that major semi-final here.”
Barely a stutter, nor misstep struck the Glory this season, with their two league losses and 17 wins surpassing previous club records with ease.
Popovic’s regimented approach reaped instant rewards at the club, as did his multi-pronged attack, led by Diego Castro, Chris Ikonomidis and Andy Keogh, through whom 27 of their 51 goals have been scored.
Sunday’s success marked the club’s principal piece of silverware in 15 years and, fresh off their first taste, there may be plenty more to come.
Next stop: Western United
He was the difference between parity and despair on Saturday night but it appears Alexander Baumjohann’s days in Western Sydney are up.
Baumjohann’s deflected free-kick spared the Wanderers further derby blushes at ANZ Stadium, but his momentum was mitigated just minutes later after Markus Babbel strangely called for his substitution.
Having been hurled off inside 25 minutes against the Sky Blues last December, the 32-year-old’s evident frustration was a case of derby déjà vu for Wanderers fans, albeit for one final time.
With the German’s one-year contract coming to a close and the Wanderers looking to crown their return to Parramatta next season with a new marquee, the window of opportunity has been left wide open for A-League newcomers Western United.
Reports linking the former Schalke midfielder with a move to Melbourne have only intensified as the regular season draws to a close, with Fox Sports’ Simon Hill even admitting as much in his commentary.
Baumjohann was an ever-present figure in Babbel’s line-up until injury struck midway through the season, but he has since responded with one goal and two assists in his last three appearances.
And while Wanderers fans are beginning to appreciate his ability now more than ever, one of football’s familiar narratives will force them to admire from afar as he stars in new colours next season.
That’s just Rudes
“Everyone at the football club knows what’s going on.”
Mark Rudan’s honesty surrounding his Wellington Phoenix future has left little to the imagination.
Members of the media are accustomed to uncovering the truth regarding such matters, but this time, it’s the rookie coach who has done all the work.
Having accused the club of lacking ambition, an adequate budget, and even admitting homesickness for his family in Sydney, Rudan’s real struggles have finally found their way onto the pitch.
Friday’s 2-1 defeat away to ninth-placed Brisbane Roar served as the Nix’s second straight since the turn of the month.
And though Rudan admitted his squad had known of his plans to potentially jump ship during their goal-laden March, all is no longer well, to the point where the Kiwi club’s quest for third is now a slide to sixth.
Next Sunday’s clash with Melbourne City will confirm their fate but if one thing was for certain, the Phoenix are in trouble.
The next best thing
With first place out of the picture, Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory will now enter the final two weeks of the regular season locked in a tight tussle for second.
Just two points separate the two sides, with Victory’s hard-fought 2-1 win over Central Coast Mariners enough to close the gap following the Sky Blues’ 1-1 derby draw at ANZ Stadium.
A weekend off and home final awaits the next best team in the competition and while Sydney currently boast the upper hand, Victory coach Kevin Muscat won’t let that serve as a distraction.
“We’ve got to concentrate and put in and let everyone else worry about themselves,” Muscat said after the match.
“From our perspective, we’ve got to recover now and stay committed and hungry.”
Victory will need maximum points against Adelaide United and the Wanderers to have any hope of usurping their Big Blue rivals, while Sydney themselves will want to avoid any slip-ups against Premiers Perth and the Newcastle Jets respectively.
Have you seen me?
In football, you can’t win without goals and Adelaide United learned that the hard way this past weekend.
The Reds played out a 0-0 draw with Melbourne City on Saturday in a match that showcased both goalkeepers at their best.
And while it was Adelaide’s “brilliant” defending that preserved a point for their trouble, coach Marco Kurz – in the wake of Jordy Thomassen’s ankle injury – admitted he had few options remaining up front.
“At the moment we do not have many strikers,” Kurz said.
“I must be careful… the only issue was that we didn’t score goals.”
Only cellar-dwellers Central Coast Mariners have scored fewer goals than United this season, who were without rising star Apostolos Stamatelopoulos for the match at AAMI Park after a straight red card ruined his two-goal outing against Wellington last time out.
Slapped with a two-match suspension, Stamatelopoulos’ absence next Friday against Melbourne Victory could prove costly should match fitness elude Nikola Mileusnic and Kurz fail to fill the void once again.